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CCCC 2001 in Review: General Session

The General Session began with announcements but the first spontaneous applause was won by a new born child. This session's beginning was mostly phatic. We were greeted by the chair and introduced to Denver by Margaret Whit. Anne Ruggles Geer asked newcomers to stand up and they were applauded. The image is clear-we are a profession who attempts to value the energy of youth and we want to make friends with colleagues who are interested in each other's academic lives.

The session continued with Introductions of the Scholars for the Dream Travel Awards. Next was the Exemplar Award (according to Doug Hesse, the highest award in our organization) presentation to Lynn Quitman Troyka. She spoke to newcomers by talking about "two of her most outstanding failures" (which were actually institutional failures to recognize her valuable work in developmental literacy) and emphasized the need to keep on keeping on. Then Troyka acknowledged her family and used lines by Marge Piercy to end by simply saying, "thank you for letting me be of use."

Next up was Wendy Bishop. It was easy to expect that the phatic discourse would decrease and the poetic discourse would increase. "I'm starting with two words," she began, "'wow' and 'welcome.'" Bishop made a slight title change for her presentation, titling her address, "Against the Odds in Composition and Rhetoric." "How swiftly generational fatigue knocks on the doors of our offices" said Bishop. She talked about her journey through English Studies to Composition and Rhetoric and expressed a "Burkean-Parlor-Agonistic" view of remembering working with committees and arguing with colleagues. "My life resembles moments on a conference elevator more than a Burkean Parlor" claimed Bishop. She said it was the new floors that keep her interested through a professional lifetime. Arriving at composition space as a refuge from harsher English studies spaces, Bishop made it clear that we have a learning tradition in English studies that should be celebrated.

Drawing on Joe Harris, Andrea Lundsford, Ed Corbett and Theresa Enos, Bishop situated herself between the "real pioneers" and those beginning Comp/Rhet Programs. She cited John Trimbur on the difficulty of staying current in the field because of our growth. Bishop used the phrase, "burn-out progression" and explained that "you can go through it five or six times in a conference." She played with the definition of "burn-out" to contrast the dedication of the field. Bishop discussed CCCC membership and the need to understand why too many first time conference goers do not continue. Bishop pointed us toward a "more fluid and open culture" and explained how the conference makes us move beyond our "safe houses" toward more expansive spaces in our classes. Bishop claimed that there is "space enough for a diversity of forms of self-reprensentaion" in our classes. "It's not theory of practice, it's person to person" she said. Bishop ended with "My Convention Poem." This poem was first read in a 4Cs session last year and first published in the Academic.Writing review of last year's conference: see The poem will be re-published in an upcoming issue of CCC. [WH]

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